It’s been eight years since my breast cancer diagnosis — and I still haven’t exhaled.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m grateful for eight more birthdays.
But when the city is awash with pink, I am reminded that too many of my sisters have died from this terrible disease.
My family was stunned when my niece, Asuntha Renee Amundson, died at 35, two years after being diagnosed.
Breast cancer doesn’t respect race, class or gender. The American Cancer Society estimates about 2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men will be diagnosed this year.
Two weeks ago, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of the long-running HBO hit “Veep,” announced via Twitter that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The overall survival rate for breast cancer diagnosed in 2005 to 2011 was 80 percent for black women compared to 91 percent for white women, according to the American Cancer Society.
“It has long been recognized that these gaps in mortality and survival largely reflect socioeconomic disparities,” said Carol DeSantis, the lead author of a 2016 report by the American Cancer Society, “African Americans’ Cancer Death Rates Continue to Drop, Reducing Disparities for Some Cancer Types.”
Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and president of Outcome Health, is convinced that equipping doctors’ offices with devices that allow patients to access medical information while they are in the waiting or exam rooms, will help reduce health care disparities.
Agarwal and the company’s founder and chief executive officer, Rishi Shah, met in college and came up with the idea in 2006. The pair launched the company a year later.
“We both had experiences of family members living with chronic conditions, and not having access to information that would help them make better decisions about treatment, but also lifestyle, food, exercise, how could they be more proactive and in control of their health trajectory,” Agarwal said in an interview.
“What we did 10 years ago was really simple — bringing a smart screen into the physician practices — and doing so with a great focus on low-income and underserved communities because that is where we saw the greatest health disparities,” she said.
Outcome Health provides the tablets and content for free, including a lifestyle program hosted by Dr. Renee Matthews, a health care columnist who often addresses health conditions prevalent in the African-American community.
“It doesn’t matter where the office is located. If you want the service, you can get it in your office,” Matthews pointed out.
The platform is being used in 20 percent of the physicians’ offices in the U.S.
Outcome Health is specifically targeting physician practices in underserved communities on the city’s South and West Sides.
“In a lot of these communities, people don’t have the latest technology. They don’t have tech literacy. They don’t have the education to be able to understand complex concepts that the physician might be trying to communicate,” Agarwal said.
Chris-Tia Donaldson, CEO of “Thank God It’s Natural” hair care products, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36.
The Harvard Law School graduate acknowledges that she was able to access the best health care available.
But Donaldson also recognizes that not every woman facing a breast cancer diagnosis is as fortunate.
“I do think, on the margins, you can improve health outcome by encouraging people to ask the right questions. So while you may not have the top radiologist, sometimes just arming women with the information makes the difference,” Donaldson said.
The best thing about October is that information about breast cancer is in your face. That’s sort of what Outcome Health is trying to do.
But the latest technology won’t help if we don’t use that information to take control of our health.
I will be the MC for ETA XI Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma RHO’s Annual “Bras & Bagels” Breast Cancer Awareness Event from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Carson Pirie Scott, Evergreen Plaza, 9700 S. Western, Evergreen Park. Email firstname.lastname@example.org